U.S. President Donald Trump's Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh agrees with the court's Chief Justice John Roberts that the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion is settled law, Senator Susan Collins said on Tuesday.
Collins, a Republican, spoke to reporters after meeting Kavanaugh in her office.
"We talked about whether he considered Roe to be settled law. He said that he agreed with what Justice Roberts said at his nomination hearing, in which he said that it was settled law," she said.
Settled law refers to a legal position that has been consistently upheld by judges.
Speculation has centered on whether Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge with a solidly conservative judicial record, would vote to overturn a woman's right to abortion. But Senate Democrats said it was not clear how Kavanaugh's views on settled law would affect how he would decide an abortion case.
Republican President Donald Trump, who nominated Kavanaugh on July 9, promised during his campaign to appoint "pro-life justices" who would overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.
Before Kavanaugh can assume the lifetime job on the nine-member court, the Republican-controlled Senate must vote to confirm him.
Kavanaugh's judicial record on abortion is thin, although last year he was on a panel of judges that issued an order preventing a 17-year-old illegal immigrant detained in Texas by U.S. authorities from immediately obtaining an abortion.
Collins, a moderate Republican, has said that she could not support a nominee who had demonstrated "hostility" to Roe V. Wade. She is considered a key vote, but she said Tuesday she will not make a final decision until after Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings, which start on September 4.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who has vowed to oppose Kavanaugh, said what Americans really need to know is whether Kavanaugh thought Roe v. Wade was correctly decided. He said he planned to ask Kavanaugh during a meeting later Tuesday.
"Otherwise no one can be assured he won't vote to unsettle it," Schumer told reporters.
Collins said her conversation with Kavanaugh, which lasted over two hours, covered a wide range of issues, including abortion and guns and Kavanaugh's "judicial philosophy." She called the meeting helpful, productive and informative.
Kavanaugh's confirmation will require a simple majority in the 100-seat Senate, where Republicans hold a 51-49 edge over Democrats and independents. Senator John McCain, a Republican, is at home undergoing treatment for cancer, leaving Republicans no room for error if no Democrats support Kavanaugh. Vice President Mike Pence would vote if there is a tie.